While we remain embroiled in our petty, low-grade, internecine warfare that has kept us barefooted and pregnant (with fears!) for the last 50 years, there’s a world out there that’s changing so fast we might as well be going backwards for all we know! Hundreds of years ago (1492 to be exact), when ole Columbus set out in those three caravels – remember from Lil ABC? the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria? – he set in motion a process that made the West conquer the world in whichever way possible. Politically, socially, culturally economically, epistemologically, philosophically…you get the idea!!
And we know, to our cost, how we were then controlled like puppets on a string to work literally as slaves and Indentured servants to enrich the West. And then after “independence”, through institutions like the IMF, World Bank, WTO and all the alphabet-soup global organisations that worked as their proxies. Do you think it was a coincidence that the 190+ countries in the UN are trumped by the five permanent members of the Security Council, where the West is the majority? Our condition was dubbed way back by Nkrumah of Ghana as “new colonialism”!
And while there was some back-and-forth over the centuries between various western empires, most recently, the top gun was Britain, and then the US after WWII. But all of that looks like it’s crumbling. There are some new emerging economies on the block that have risen to challenge the old order. A couple of decades ago, they were dubbed “BRICS” – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. They met a couple of times to coordinate their challenge to the West…but an attractive acronym wasn’t enough to hold them together.
There were, after all, the ambitions!! Russia was nursing its wounds after losing the Cold War and having its satellites break away from the USSR. Brazil and South Africa were there more for symbolism than anything, and China and India – well, that’s the story, ain’t it? The two most populous countries in the world were also very ancient, and they never forgot that at one time they were literally on top of the world. And that the “west” was just a direction from where they were located!! Remember Columbus was sailing west to reach China and India?? It wasn’t for sightseeing, but their riches!!
Well, the US is still Top Gun, but China and India have moved out of the pack and are jostling to not only surpass the US economically – that’s a given by 2050. But to do so in all the other ways the west consolidated their spot at the top for so long.
In one of the most shocking developments in recent history, the software top honcho for the Pentagon resigned because he was frustrated that the US seems to have conceded supremacy to China in the brave new world that’s evolving. This new world will be so not just because of new leaders – but because it’ll be built on completely new foundations than the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century built on the steam engine.
This one will be built on “software”…the instructions that underpin Artificial Intelligence that will make half of the present world redundant. And the Pentagon fella who resigned says that, in this area, the US is like “kindergarten” compared to the Chinese being in college!! The US has lost the game…story done!!
So, what are we – a small, pint-size country that’s just noticed because of our oil find – make of this? We can’t ignore it? Should we sidle up to China and get into bed? Well, that’s not too smart an idea.
The Chinese Dragon belches fire!!
So where does all of this leave India? Well, as a neighbour, they’re sure to rub up against each other.
But while India have held their own in software, they better make up in infrastructure pronto!